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Boat Girl: A Memoir of Youth, Love & Fiberglass

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  127 ratings  ·  30 reviews
"Boat Girl" is the heart-breaking memoir of growing up aboard a sailboat. Throughout the 1980's and 90's, Melanie's family lived aboard a 47-foot sailboat, spending their summers along the US East Coast and their winters in the Bahamas. But the cruising life was not all fun in the sun. The family had to work hard to pay for their way of life. They dodged hurricanes, overze ...more
Paperback, 246 pages
Published October 1st 2012 by Beating Windward Press LLC (first published September 29th 2012)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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Jan 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
There were lots of people and lots of places, and none of them felt like home

3.5 stars. I enjoyed this coming of age story. I've never thought about what it would be like growing up on a sailboat, and what I got from this book is that it would be a different experience for each person. Some people choose this lifestyle because it would expose them and their children to more things in life, and some because you could protect yourself and your children much easier from any influences that you were
Austin Collins
Apr 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
You would not be far off to call Boat Girl a maritime version of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. More accurately, it begins as AYTGIMM and evolves into Forever, another Judy Blume classic, as the narrator leaves the awkwardness of puberty behind and enters the uncertainty of young adulthood.

The comparison fits not just due to the subject matter — a girl coming of age and dealing the all the usual social, body image and self-esteem issues — but also the tone, which is straightforward, conve
Jun 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone needing a mental trip to the Bahamas.
Shelves: galley-arc
My copy is a galley copy.

This was a fairly quick easy read and enjoyable. I loved the first half of the book and it is marvelous in evoking the atmosphere of the Bahamas and South Florida. It felt like a vicarious vacation (well, except for cleaning conch shells).

This would be a great mid-winter read. Especially when snowed in...

The second half, I was not so enamored with. It was good, but darker, covering her adolescence - teen issues, school, parental conflict, friendships and plans changing,
Jenny (Reading Envy)
When I saw this book on NetGalley (where I did get a copy of this in exchange for an honest review), I was interested in it for a number of reasons. Number one, I've been participating in an Around the World reading challenge, and it is hard to find books set in the Bahamas beyond crime novels. Number two, I didn't know there were kids raised on sailboats, and found that concept pretty intriguing.

Melanie Neale spent almost all of her childhood on a sailboat with her family, and this is an accoun
Oct 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Loved this memoir - you get a real sense of growing up in a sailor's lifestyle - something most people only dream of - but from the perspective of the kids taken along for the ride. Great insight to family relationships and coming of age in a wholly unusual motif. ...more
Laureen Hudson
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I devoured this book in two sittings, the whole time with my heart in my throat.

I read this through the lens of being a parent of a girlchild who was born on a sailboat and has never lived on land. I read this through the lens of being a family on a boat, which is the weirdest mix of totally public and totally private. I read this wondering what my kids would think when I write about our voyages, and I read this wondering what my kids would write about those same voyages.

I also read this criti
Keith Gouveia
Dec 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
I had the pleasure of meeting Melanie at a book signing, and since I didn't grow up abroad, nor was I a young girl, I really had no desire to read this book. However, Melanie was so approachable, so down to earth, I had to buy her book. Since I had read Beating Windward Press' other titles and highly enjoyed them, I thought "what the hell" and cracked the spine. I am so glad I did. The story was highly enjoyable, well written, and casual, and after reading it I feel as though I have a new best f ...more
Michael Dinning
Aug 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I honestly didn't expect to read this all the way through, but Melanie Neale's writing kept my interest and it'll probably be one of the more memorable books I've read. Anyone who's spent time in sailboats, south Florida or the Bahamas will relate to her vivid can almost smell the mangroves! Melanie has a direct, honest way of describing relationships and situations. I'd love to see a sequel! ...more
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A well-written book, quite open and honest about her relationship with her parents, her father especially. I have friends and relatives who are passionate about sailing so it was interesting to me to read about someone who actually lived the life full-time. I found the author on Facebook and wish she would add an update to her story at the end of the book because it looks like things have changed from the way she left it.
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-nonfiction
I really liked this book. The excerpt led me to believe it would be heavily dramatic and negative (which I don't like), but it wasn't at all. It was very good. I highly recommend it to people interested in reading about alternate lifestyles or are particularly interested in boats. 👍 ...more
Dec 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: ya, 2014
Received a copy from NetGalley.
I was drawn to Boat Girl when I saw that it was available because I'm drawn to all things sailing, for a start. Much of it I read aloud on road trips with my husband, but I read the last third or so on my own in the interest of finishing for review.
Boat Girl is a very interesting read, and I enjoyed being immersed in the author's unique childhood and growing up as she lived her life on sailboats, experiencing a flow of annual rhythms and gypsy wanderings most of us
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating account of Melanie Neale’s childhood and adolesence growing up on the family boat Chez Nous with her parents and younger sister. In the winters they head off for the Bahamas and summers they return to the east coast of the United States. Melanie’s parents have always been unconventional and wish to broaden the horizons of their children. Melanie and her sister are home-schooled and as children get shunned by small-town America for their unconventional lifestyle. Learning the lore o ...more
Jean Li
Nov 07, 2013 rated it liked it
My full review here:

Melanie Neale's memoir evokes a scenic memory of the Bahamas and Florida - an elusive beginning to a heartbreaking story of growing-up and falling apart in more ways than one.

Each memory from her growing up years are detailed with the dates and year, giving us a complete picture of family whose lives revolved around living in a confined 47-foot sailboat cruising between the US East Coast and the Bahamas. The rocky lifestyle shapes the
Nov 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Sailors, biography/memoir fans
Shelves: netgalley, memoir

When I spotted this book on NetGalley I requested it since my husband and I sail on the Chesapeake Bay. Some of our friends have lived aboard their boats for a period of time, but I don't know anyone who has raised children in a liveaboard situation. So I was intrigued.

This book kept me awake way too late the last couple of nights because I couldn't put it down. The book is written as a series of vignettes, and each chapter is headed with the year and the author's age at the time the events took
Oct 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Getting a glimpse of a world I haven’t experienced is one of my greatest reading pleasures, and Melanie Neale writes with such beautiful, immersive language in this memoir of growing up as a “boat kid”, that it entranced me and gave me the liberating sensation that I was living it all myself, from the confined spaces of the cabin to the wide open vastness of the sea and sky. For her entire childhood, Melanie and her family lived on a 47 foot sailboat cruising between the Bahamas and the US East ...more
Sep 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was immediately drawn to Boat Girl: A Memoir of Youth, Love, and Fiberglass by Melanie Neale. This memoir is a series of increasingly connected vignettes, starting when Melanie was very young, which together paint a larger picture of boat life. Melanie and her sister grew up aboard a sailboat, typically summering in Virginia and wintering in the Bahamas. They were homeschooled aboard, supported by the money her father made writing sailing books and articles, diving and meeting all sorts of int ...more
Jun 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
I came across this book while researching about living life aboard a sailboat.

This memoir is separated into three books.

The first book and half of the second are about her childhood + teen years living full time aboard with her family on their sailboat. I very much so enjoyed that portion.

The rest of the second half and the third book are about her young adult + adult years. Living on her own (land and boat living), getting a job, going through relationships, where she is now, etc. While I did
Martina Clark
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Having spent some time crewing on sailboats in my own misspent young, I picked up the memoir Boat Girl because it looked fun. I kept reading because the story drew me in. I couldn’t put it down because it was just that good. Starting from when she was still in her mother’s belly, Ms. Neale tells us the story of how she and a sailboat were born – or perhaps built? – at the same time and grew up together. She spent the first 19 years of her life living aboard her parent’s sailboat Chez Nous along ...more
Tina Bell
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book, for those (like me) with zero-knowledge of the boating world, boating life, boat both educational and thrilling. It provides a look into a world I would never have willingly glimpsed into (if not prompted to by the author, who I happen to know!)....but I am so very glad I did. I encourage those of you who do not know one end of a boat from the other (literally), to pick it up, enjoy the gentle meander through years and oceans, people and places. Melanie Neale presents thi ...more
Tina Dreffin
Sep 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Boat Girl" is a must read for any teenager or parent interested in knowing the intricacies of life lived aboard a sailboat with helicopter parents. Melanie struggles to win the favor of her father who seems more intent on her fitting into society than connecting with her as a daughter on a genuine level. Since there isn't a society in the islands where Melanie is reared, the reader is left wondering what her father is thinking.

Melanie's struggles mirror that of all young teenage girls when face
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
While I am not a boat person I grew up in Florida and this book makes me see the ocean and smell the salt air. One reviewer said it felt like a group of short stories but to me this approach added to the book. As you grow up you change and life feels like a succession of short stories. Everyone should have their stories for it makes life richer. Boat Girl is a great story of living on boats but it is also a great story of a child growing to a woman. I have not enjoyed a boat book as much since r ...more
Mairita (Marii grāmatplaukts)
Ideāla grāmata tiem, kas kādreiz domā: kā tas ir - pastāvīgi dzīvot laivā. Autore uzaugusi buru laivā kopā ar māsu un vecākiem ziemas pavadot Bahamu salās, bet vasaras pie Virdžīnijas vai Floridas krastiem. Tāda dzīve nav tikai skaisti saulrieti, ruma dzeršana un snorkelēšana un labi, ka autore nebaidās to atklāt.
Pilna atsauksme:

Ideal for those who have ever wondered - how it is to live on a boat. I liked the first part about her childhood in Bahamas. Sec
May 15, 2014 rated it liked it
The author tells her story of living on a boat with her parents and sister sailing around the Bahamas beginning when she was 5 and her sister was 3. She tells about her life as a child, living on the boat, homeschooling, sailing to different places meeting the same people each year and seeing other children occasionally. Then she tells about her teen years and her young adult years when she moves out from her parents and buys her own boat. The story is well written and rather interesting. I rece ...more
Matt Peters
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was more about Melanie coming of age than her sailing voyages. Sailboats and the islands are just the setting for the story about a shy, awkward girl dealing with a pretty, popular sister and difficult father. Living on a boat certainly didn't make things any easier or better.

Read more like a true account rather than the typical romanticized version of the sailing lifestyle you usually get. It was a darker story than I expected, but that grit made the book much more engaging and enjoya
Dec 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
I received this book on netgalley.

I love travel books, as someone who loves to travel this caught my eye. I often joke if I ever hit the lottery I'm either going to buy a boat and take off or buy a one way ticket to Belize.

This book was a great story, it was very much coming of age, more so than travel. Either way it filled my passion for wanderlust & also gave me an understanding of what "travel full time" really means.

If you are like me this is the perfect travel read. It was especially wond
Summer Wilms
Feb 06, 2013 rated it liked it
I met the author on several occasions when I was 13 and a boat kid myself. Because of that, I found that the book was an interesting mix of nostalgia and what I can only think of as neighborly vouyerism; Seeing what went on below the decks of a fellow family of boaters. So it was a bit different for me in that respect.

It would be an excellent read for any young adult, coming of age in an unconventional environment or for any family considering a live-aboard lifestyle.

Melanie's writing is heartf
Dec 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was a very interesting read for me. It gave me a real look at the kind of life I have no idea about: growing up on a boat, living on a boat year round for 20some years.

The book was easy to read, the writing flowed well, and Melanie gave me a true and authentic look at her life. There wasn't any sugar coating. Good and bad memories were presented to show the full package.

Super interesting read.
Apr 05, 2013 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading this book as Melanie and I are the same age. It really put into perspective how different we both grew up. However, in this memior I learnt that no matter what environment a young girl grows up in, we are all searching for who we are and who we want to become. It was a pleasure to go along the trips with Melanie from Florida to the Bahamas.
Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A fun coming of age story. Melanie weaves in and out of her life aboard a sailboat and the longing she has for land, friends and love on land.
Sydney Peacock
May 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great book! Read it while sailing the Exumas!
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Melanie Neale grew up living aboard a 47' sailboat with her parents and her sister. The family traveled the US East Coast and the Bahamas from the mid 1980's to the end of the 1990's, and both daughters were home-schooled until they went to college. Melanie began writing poetry and short stories when she was a young child, and she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Ecke ...more

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